author Dennis McFarland comes an extraordinary Civil War novel: the journey of
a nineteen-year-old private abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness,
struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly
changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield.
In the winter of 1864, young Summerfield Hayes, a
pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his
sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The
siblings, who have recently lost both their parents, are unusually attached,
and Summerfield fears his untoward, secret feelings for his sister. This rich
backstory is intercut with stunning scenes of Hayes’ soul-altering hours on the
march, at the front—the slaughter of barely grown young men who, only days
before, whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary
deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find
safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades—and later, in the
Washington military hospital where he eventually finds himself, now mute and
unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he
encounters—a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only
appears to be his enemy, the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his
illness—is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes his
strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on
the fellowship that is forged in crisis, reminds us how deep are the wounds of
war, not all of which are visible.
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